Latest 'Glee' episode hits high note with salute to legendary Judy/Barbra duet
It took me a while to get onto the "Glee" bandwagon, but I'm so glad I did. Sure, I'm still waiting for Will to teach these kids something at least sort of classical one day, just to stretch their eager little cords in another direction. But that's a minor disappointment.
This new season has already had some big peaks, including the "Grilled Cheesus" episode last week that led up, as I instinctively felt it would, to the strangely haunting Joan Osborne song, "One of Us."
That song always takes me back to 2002. It happened to be the first music I heard, inadvertently, after
staggering out of Messiaen's awesome "Saint Francoise d'Assise" at the San Francisco Opera. I walked into a restaurant totally dazed by that five-hour experience -- the incandescent music and the messages of what it means to believe, to doubt, to grow. What kept flashing in my mind was the scene at the end of Act 1, where St. Francis kisses a leper, one of the most riveting and goose bump-producing moments of music-theater I've ever experienced.
I was still reliving that incredible scene as I tried to focus on the menu in some nondescript diner when I suddenly realized what was coming through the speakers above me: "What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home." Talk about a sign.
So I loved how the "Glee" episode, having explored the diversity of faith and no faith among the singers, brought everything around at the end to "One of Us." I got chilled all over again.
And then along came this week's "Duets" episode, which couldn't have been more musically vibrant if it tried.
My favorite part about this series, I admit, is the way it works in so many great songs that are not likely to be on the average high-schooler's iPod. The covers of rock hits can certainly be cool, too (I thought Kurt's gentle version of "I Want to Hold Your Hand" last week really clicked), but when the Broadway and movie music starts flying, well, so do I. And Monday's show delivered big time.
Kurt's deliciously extravagant take on "Le Jazz Hot" from "Victor/Victoria" was a highpoint. But when he teamed up at the end with Rachel to recreate, in extraordinarily sensitive style, one of the most iconic performances of pop music history, well, let's just say I got a little verklempt.
I love that "Glee" performers and audiences get so much exposure to so much great vintage popular music. That's got to be a good thing. Maybe uninitiated viewers will even get so intrigued by it they'll start exploring that heritage, discovering incomparable singers of earlier generations, expanding their musical horizons even more.
An ideal place to start (Rachel has been there all along, of course) is with Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand. In case you've never seen it, or just need a fresh lift from it, here's the amazing duet from Judy's TV show in 1963 -- Streisand's signature version of "Happy Days Are Here Again," slowed down from its intended snappy tempo and given an ironic edge; Garland's "Get Happy," here molded to fit the introspective mood. Like I said, Rachel and Kurt nailed this Monday night, but it's always worth reliving the original: